How to build a pizza oven

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Jamie Oliver cooks pizza with a wood fired oven
A wood fired pizza oven is an oven used for making pizzas with a simple floor of fire bricks and a wood fire. Pizza ovens may be made of brick, clay, concrete, stone, ceramic, etc. A pizza needs a very high heat from all sides, above and below, and therefore a pizza oven is carefully designed to ensure that it fulfills this purpose. The oven may be either built from raw materials or purchased as a partial or complete kit. Pizzas cooked in a wood fired oven take between 1 - 2 minutes to cook and taste fantastic.

Wood fired ovens work by creating a small fire within a chamber with a solid floor and insulation overhead. Due to the insulation the heat gradually builds to very high temperatures of over 370°C (700°F) which are perfect for cooking pizzas. From creating the initial fire to cooking a pizza generally takes from 1 to 2 hours. Once the oven is hot the fire is moved to the side or back so that a pizza made be inserted. At first the oven may be used to cook pizza, however as it gradually cools other dishes which take less heat may be cooked in the residual heat. The oven insulation means that the oven may remain hot for many hours (12+). Whether built of brick or cob, the ovens are aesthetically pleasing and will add to a property's value and are generally admired by friends and family. Wood fired ovens are known for the cooking of pizzas however they are very versatile in that they can further be used to bake bread, cook steak, roast meats, and prepare items such as sun dried tomatoes.

Building of a pizza oven is fairly straight forward and requires completion of the following steps:

  1. Choose a size and adopt a plan.
  2. Source the materials.
  3. Foundation (out of wood, brick, stone etc).
  4. Hearth insulation.
  5. Sand bed and hearth of firebricks.
  6. Dome (out of brick or clay).
  7. Chimney and flue.
  8. Insulation (out of vermiculite, perlite, fire blanket or a mix).
  9. Cladding, render and door.


Contents

[edit] Pizza Oven Types

Pizzas have been in existence since the 18th century, and along with the evolution of pizza, the methods of preparing a pizza have also evolved. Today, you will find a huge variety of pizza ovens in the market offering various ways to make the perfect pizza. The ovens vary in shape, size, capacity, mobility, as well as locations they can be placed at.

When building a pizza oven, most people get confused when it comes to choosing the shape of the oven. We've seen both Rectangular Barrel oven domes and Round Igloo oven domes in use. In bakeries and eateries, we usually see the Rectangular Barrel. Both the domes cook the same way and none of them leaves cold spots in your pizza or bread. Professionals use Rectangular Barrel Domes because it gives them more space and allows them to make more pizzas at a time. For personal (home) use, space and quantity are not an issue so either shape would suffice. Both the domes take the same amount of time to heat up.

[edit] Pizza Oven Building Plans

A number of building plans exist due to the wide range of techniques by which a wood fired pizza ovens can be built.

[edit] Choosing an Oven Size

The size of an oven built will largely depend upon the quantity of food that is to be cooked, the size of the pizzas, the available space, building materials and the available budget. As cob is not as strong as brick and mortar, cob ovens are generally smaller in size. Additionally cob ovens are made of much cheaper materials and so may be a priority for those on a budget. When ovens are constructed for restaurants they need to be large in size to enable entry of large and/or multiple pizzas. Downsides of large ovens include the increased costs, the extra wood requirements to heat the larger area, and the extra skill to create a structurally stable oven.

Internal Dimensions Hearth Surface Area Dome Shape Recommended User
34" diameter (86cm) 907inch2 (5,808cm2) Igloo Small family cooking pizza
42" diameter (106cm) 1,385inch2 (8,824cm2) Igloo Large family
50" diameter (130cm) 1,963inch2 (13,273cm2) Igloo Restaurant
32" x 36" (82cm x 92cm) 1,152inch2 (7,544cm2) Barrel Small family
35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) 1,365inch2 (9,000cm2) Barrel Large family
47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) 2,773inch2 (18,000cm2) Barrel Restaurant

[edit] Time to Construct

The effort and time required to construct an oven depends largely on the material and size of the oven. Sourcing professional materials such as fire brick and fire blanket can be difficult and time consuming depending on the country and local industry. To make construction easier many suppliers of refractory products create pizza oven kits for sale which include the majority of the difficult to acquire materials such as garden mud. For a professional builder that has access to the required materials and skill, the construction of a large oven will be comparably quick and easy as compared to an individual completing a 'do it yourself' construction on the weekends. Constructing a cob oven generally requires less skill and may utilise cheap and readily available materials. These ovens are recommended for beginner builders as a means to gain experience and enjoyment of a pizza oven without the large expense and time commitment of a large brick oven. The below table gives rough guides as to the time required to construct an oven whether by a DIY or professional builder, with a kit or using raw materials. The durations provided include the time required to source the materials. For some individuals the time to construct may be much larger due to difficulty in finding the desired materials.

Internal Dimensions Material Shape Builder Kit Duration
34" diameter (86cm) Cob Igloo DIY Raw materials 1 - 2 days
34" diameter (86cm) Brick Igloo DIY Pizza oven kit 2 - 4 days
34" diameter (86cm) Brick Igloo DIY Raw materials 4 - 10 days
34" diameter (86cm) Brick Igloo Professional Builder Raw materials 1 - 2 days
35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) Brick Barrel Professional Builder Raw materials 2 - 4 days
47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) Brick Barrel Professional Builder Raw materials 3 - 5 days

[edit] Costs of Building a Wood Fired Oven

Historically wood fired ovens have been built by both primitive man all the way through to the Romans and modern society. Some Roman wood fired ovens still exist and may be viewed in the ruins of Pompeii. This style of oven remains popular and is termed the 'Pompeii Pizza Oven'. Whether the oven is build from simply mud and straw, or more sophisticated bricks and materials, costs will vary wildly based on the source of the materials and size or extent of the oven and enclosure. If on a budget it is suggested that individuals look to source free or readily available materials to build thee oven. Old second hand bricks which are not perfect for the building of houses may be a good choice due to their cheap cost and the added character they bring to the oven. Building an oven entirely out of cob or simply mud may be entirely free if the material can be found in nature of on the existing property. If building a large oven with quality bricks, supporting structure and cover, stylish cladding or mosaics, the costs will likely increase substantially. The below table gives indications regarding what cost ranges generally are for individual DIY construction. If having a contractor source the materials and construct the oven the costs may again increase substantially. Another option is the purchase of a partially constructed oven to help reduce the burden of sourcing the materials.

Internal Dimensions Hearth Surface Area Dome Shape Material Cost
30" diameter (76cm) 706inch2 (4,363cm2) Igloo Cob $0 - 600
34" diameter (86cm) 907inch2 (5,808cm2) Igloo Cob $0 - 600
30" diameter (76cm) 706inch2 (4,363cm2) Igloo Brick $400 - $2,000
34" diameter (86cm) 907inch2 (5,808cm2) Igloo Brick $500 - $2,600
42" diameter (106cm) 1,385inch2 (8,824cm2) Igloo Brick $600 - $3,000
50" diameter (130cm) 1,963inch2 (13,273cm2) Igloo Brick $700 - $3,500
32" x 36" (82cm x 92cm) 1,152inch2 (7,544cm2) Barrel Brick $500 - $2,600
35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) 1,365inch2 (9,000cm2) Barrel Brick $600 - $3,000
47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) 2,773inch2 (18,000cm2) Barrel Brick $700 - $3,800
59" x 71" (150cm x 180cm) 4,189inch2 (27,000cm2) Barrel Brick $800 - $5,000
Further information: Cost of individual materials and Sourcing materials for building a wood fired pizza

[edit] Material

The material you use to build your oven determines how long the oven will last. There are a couple of other factors that affect the life of the oven too but the material used is the most important one. The material of the oven also determines how quickly the oven will heat up, how long will the heat last, how fast will the heat dissipate, etc. Most of the time the ovens are either built with bricks or clay. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages. After fully understanding how these materials will affect the oven should you decide which one to build your oven with. The quantity and types of material required will depend ultimately on the oven size and style chosen.

[edit] Brick

Pizza oven build

If you are building an oven for personal home use then brick ovens are generally recommended. Brick ovens are low maintenance and preferable for home use. Clay ovens may require more care during construction and may start peeling or cracking if not completed correctly. Brick ovens use 3/4th of the heat from the wood fire and lose only 1/4th of the heat through the chimney. As a result these ovens are exceptionally fuel efficient. The high aluminium content fire bricks absorb heat very well, have a very good thermal conductivity and heat withstanding properties which overall makes them ideal for extended use.

  • Materials
    • Fire Clay
    • Fire bricks
    • Sand
    • Mortar
    • Bricks
  • Tools
    • Bricklaying trowel
    • Plastering trowel
    • Rubber mallet
    • Spirit / builders level
    • Pencil
    • Square
    • Shovel

[edit] How many bricks do I need?

Material 32" x 36" (82cm x 92cm) dome 35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) dome 47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) dome 59" x 71" (150cm x 180cm) dome
Besser Blocks for Foundation (190 x 190 x 390mm) 40 43 61 75
Fire Brick for Hearth (76 x 230 x 110mm) 26 30 44 60
Fire Brick for Dome (76 x 230 x 110mm) 160 - 240 200 - 300 330 - 500 500 - 900
Bag of Cement 4 6 10 12
Bag of Sand 12 18 30 36
Insulation (Fire blanket) 3 m2 4 m2 5 m2 7 m2

[edit] What do the materials cost?

The below table lists example prices and estimates regarding the materials required for constructing a pizza oven. These are estimates only to be used as a guide. Actual material required and cost will depend on the type of pizza oven, construction method, and country the materials will be sought within. If the standard red housing were to be substituted for the fire bricks the cost per brick will be considerably less. Values are in $USD.

Material Cost Generally Required Average Total Cost
Foundation Besser Blocks $3 each 60 $180
Fire Bricks (Hearth and Dome) $2 per brick 250 $500
Fire Clay $25 per bag 2 bags $50
Bag of Cement $5 per bag 20 bags $100
Reinforcement Steel $3 per meter 20 meters $60
Bag of Sand $4 per bag 30 bags $80
Insulation (Fire blanket) $75 per m2 sheet 4 m2 $300
Insulation (Vermiculite) $15 100L bag of Vermiculite 1 bag $15

[edit] Fire Bricks

A refractory brick, also called fire brick, is used in pizza ovens due to their ability to withstand high heats. These bricks are may with fire clay which has a high alumina content.

[edit] Refractory Mortar

Hand Mix Mortar
When flat fire brick joints are difficult or impossible, refractory mortar is used. Its maximum application should be no more than about 1/4" (6mm) as thicknesses above this are prone to shrink and crack oven time. It shouldn't be used to fill holes or empty spaces in the oven. It is only suitable for external use on the oven dome which is not in direct contact with the fire within.

[edit] Cement

Cement is defined as a substance used to as binder in construction work. Beside mortar and clay, cement is widely used in making pizza oven. Depending on composition and color, cement is classified as follows:

  • High alumina cement
  • Acid resistant cement
  • Hydrophobic cement
  • Blast furnace cement
  • Acid-resistant cement
  • Expanding cement
  • Portland cement
  • Low heat cement

[edit] Clay (Cob / Earth / Horno / Adobe)

Making of a clay oven

In a clay oven, clay is the essential material as it is used to hold all the materials together. Wet clay tends to be sticky but once it dries up, it becomes hard. You also save a lot of space in a clay oven as you can use the same space for fire to heat the oven up and then for cooking after removing the fire. The heat in a clay oven is also evenly spread and does not leave cold spots. Clay ovens stay hot for a long time too so you get ample time to cook your pizza.

For insulation and better results, clay is mixed with sand or straw. Sand reduces the shrinkage while straw provides the insulation. Depending on the local temperature and weather conditions of your area, you will need to make the right mix of clay, sand, and straw for best results.

  • Materials
    • Fire Clay
    • Soil
    • Straw
    • Sand
  • Tools
    • Protective gloves
    • Dust mask
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Level
    • Shovel

[edit] What do the materials cost?

In contrast to a traditional brick oven, mud or cob ovens are considerably cheaper to build. If no funds are available for materials, the entirety of the materials can usually be found in a backyard or elsewhere in nature. For a proper oven which will experience a reasonable amount of use then it is recommended that an investment be made in either standard red builders bricks or fire bricks to build the hearth. This will provide for a clean, reusable and dependable surface for placing food. Additionally it is recommended that a bonding agent such as hay or grass be utilised to prevent the breakdown of the dome over time. The hay acts as a binder within the cob holding the material together even if cracks form. The below table lists some of the common materials, estimates on required quantities and costs.

Material Cost Generally Required Average Total Cost
Sand Free or $4 per bag 5 bags $20
Newspaper $1 per paper 1 $1
Fire Bricks (Hearth) $2 per brick 25 $50
Mud Free Lots Free
Hay $5 per 50 pound square bale 2 $10

[edit] Building a Pizza Oven

If you follow the right guide it becomes fairly easy to construct a pizza oven. The structure has a few basic parts that enable the oven to function properly. All these parts are important and should be carefully constructed. The parts of a pizza oven include:

  • Foundation
  • Hearth
  • Dome
  • Vent
  • Flue
  • Chimney

[edit] Location

Selection of a pizza oven site should take into consideration a number of issues including:

Weather and shelter
A pizza oven should be placed in an area which provides shelter to protect the oven from water and exposure. If placed outside the shelter may be a simple pergola to wooden frame. If placed inside the oven will likely want to be placed near or in the kitchen, and sufficient modifications to the building may be necessary to allow for the installation of the chimney. Benefits of having the oven inside may include that the fire will heat the house or room, and that the oven may be more readily accessible in bad weather.
Governmental or council laws and regulations
Existing laws may impose restrictions on the placement of a pizza oven whether it is near to a fence or border, or if placed internal to a house. Council approval or legal advice may be necessary.
Fire hazards
As wood fired ovens utilise a physical fire to heat up and reach very high temperatures it is important to consider the safety implications. Survey the environment surrounding the oven and whether it is flammable and the potential risks of injury to individuals such as children. It may be appropriate to insure that the height of the hearth is high enough such that it is inaccessible to small children. While fires are burning it is possible for hot embers to pop and travel away from the fire and outside the oven. For this reason you will not want flammable objects such as rugs near the oven while it is hot.
Structural integrity of the foundation surface
When determining the surface for the foundation it is important to consider the structural integrity. Due to the immense weight of the oven if it is placed on a soft ground such as sand it is possible that the oven could lean over time. If placement is to be made on a raised deck or veranda it may be necessary to seek the advice of an engineer or reinforce the strength of the surface that will take the weight.
Useability
Although pizza ovens are extremely beneficial and versatile, the placement of the oven may greatly determine the useability and frequency with which people will have the forethought to use them effectively. Placing the oven in a high traffic area such as a kitchen or next to a pool is more likely to be used often than if it is placed in a remote area infrequently visited or viewed.
Aesthetics
When designed and built properly pizza ovens may be quite aesthetically pleasing. The oven should be placed in an area such that it can be observed and admired for its purpose and architectural design whether traveling through or eating a meal which was made within said oven.
Property value
Property value may be increased by the addition of a pizza oven by more than the cost of sourcing and building the oven. When placing an oven individuals should consider the implications the oven will have when viewed by a potential future buyer of the property. Similarly a pizza oven placed in an inconvenient location, or an ill-designed oven in a prominent location may reduce the future property value.

[edit] Foundation

To begin the construction of the pizza oven foundation you first need to establish a solid flat surface. If building directly on soil this will simply mean removing the grass with a spade to expose the soil. If you are to build on an existing structure you will need to ensure that the weight of the pizza oven foundation and the pizza oven itself will not cause any problems. As the materials used may be extremely heavy it is likely that if an oven were to be built on a wood platform that cracks or other failures may occur. The structure may either be stand along or part of a larger structure such as a kitchen or outdoor kitchen. When building the foundation you should take into consideration the potential extensions which might be made including the addition of barbeques, sinks etc. The foundation may be made out of a variety of material including:
  • Wood
    • Railway sleepers
    • Hardwood planks
  • Bricks
    • Concrete besser blocks
    • Housing bricks
  • Stone

[edit] Shelter

For pizza ovens placed outside in direct contact with the elements a shelter will be preferable to protect the oven primarily from water exposure. A pizza oven is generally quite rugged and may withstand abuse from wind, snow, hail and water abuse. Issues can occur however if water is allowed to seep into the oven walls. For cod constructed ovens this may result in immediate structural integrity issues. For both cob and brick ovens water within the walls will pose issues when the oven is to be fired. The water contained within will heat with the oven, eventually turn to steam, attempt to escape, and may lead to cracks in the oven walls. To minimise this potential issue it is recommended that a shelter be provided for the oven or the oven be built below an existing structure. The structure may be built of any material which is structurally legal and aesthetically pleasing. Considerations should be made in that the risks regarding fire are limited in respect to the structure, and that smoke from the oven has a suitable path of escape. A pizza oven placed directly under a roof without a proper chimney will likely lead to smoke damage.

[edit] Hearth

Oven hearth with offset pattern bricks

The hearth is the main part of the oven used for cooking and is where the pizza or bread will be placed. The hearth is a slab rising a little above the base of the oven and is a clean flat surface of medium density fire bricks for the pizza to sit upon as it cooks. The vault of the oven is the open space above the hearth within which hot air circulates. Fire bricks are used due to their ability to withstand the extremely high heats generated by the oven fire. In order to prevent a build up of waste or debris between the bricks, the bricks are placed as close as possible together without the use of mortar. Mortar is not used as it will likely fail and crack over time. The sand upon which the bricks sit enable for a completely flat surface and to allow the bricks to be slightly adjusted with a rubber mallet. 32" x 36" (82 cm x 92 cm) is an ideal hearth size for home pizza ovens.

[edit] Dome

The width of the dome determines the cooking space and the height of the dome is generally 3/4th of the width. The main purpose of the dome is to contain and radiate the heat generated by the fire. The heat energy is absorbed into the dome evenly and then is radiated back and used for cooking after the heat source is removed. It is generally better to construct a brick or cob dome instead of utilising a prefabricated dome. Prefabricated domes have a tendency to develop cracks and start peeling especially if high quality refractory ingredients were not used in the manufacturing process.

For air circulation and heating purposes it is important that the height of the dome and the door be carefully measured. The ideal heights are generally of around:

Entry door height: 10 inch (25.4cm) Vault height (internal): 16 inch (40.6cm)

The dome of a pizza oven can be constructed in a number of ways:

  1. Use wet sand to build a dome shaped form and then mortar the bricks by laying them against the form.
  2. Use wet sand to build a dome shaped form and then place wet news paper and cob over the sand.
  3. Cut a Styrofoam form to the dome's profile and place it inside your dome. Remove after the dome is completed.
  4. The most common is the free-standing dome which uses chains of brick circles that are built on top of each other and are self-supporting. A form can be used as a guide but is not necessary for skilled brick layers.
Internal Dimensions Hearth Surface Area Dome Shape Vault Height Door Height Door Width Foundation Pizzas (10")
30" diameter (76cm) 706inch2 (4,363cm2) Igloo 16" (41 cm) 10" (25 cm) 16" (41 cm) 53" x 66" (135cm x 145cm) 1-2
34" diameter (86cm) 907inch2 (5,808cm2) Igloo 16" (41 cm) 10" (25 cm) 18" (46 cm) 57" x 70" (145cm x 180cm) 2-3
42" diameter (106cm) 1,385inch2 (8,824cm2) Igloo 18" (46 cm) 11" (28 cm) 18" (46 cm) 65" x 78" (165cm x 200cm) 4-5
50" diameter (130cm) 1,963inch2 (13,273cm2) Igloo 22" (56 cm) 14" (36 cm) 18" (46 cm) 73" x 86" (185cm x 220cm) 7-9
32" x 36" (82cm x 92cm) 1,152inch2 (7,544cm2) Barrel 16" (41 cm) 10" (25 cm) 16" (41 cm) 55" x 72" (140cm x 180cm) 1-2
35" x 39" (90cm x 100cm) 1,365inch2 (9,000cm2) Barrel 18" (46 cm) 11" (28 cm) 18" (46 cm) 58" x 79" (150cm x 200cm) 3-4
47" x 59" (120cm x 150cm) 2,773inch2 (18,000cm2) Barrel 22" (56 cm) 14" (36 cm) 18" (46 cm) 70" x 99" (180cm x 250cm) 5-6
59" x 71" (150cm x 180cm) 4,189inch2 (27,000cm2) Barrel 28" (71 cm) 18" (46 cm) 22" (56 cm) 82" x 111" (210cm x 280cm) 10-12
[edit] External

The external surface of the pizza oven may be finished with either a cement or clay render cladding, a final brick layer, or tiled.

[edit] Vent / Chimney

Igloo dome cross section

In brick ovens, 1/4th of the heat leaves through the chimney. A chimney also improves the airflow through the oven. It helps direct the smoke so that it doesn't blow out on your face. An enameled flue pipe can be used for the chimney. The height of the chimney depends on the size of the oven but it can be anywhere from 1 meter or more. Some people choose not to build a chimney in their ovens, however that may result in an oven the does not perform at its optimum and may cause excess smoke issues.

The vent of an oven can be constructed with brick, cast, or steel. Each material has its own advantage depending on the usage. The vent of a pizza oven is usually on its outside, not inside. You can use decorative material to hide the vent from the outside. The vent lets some heat escape the inner chamber/dome. There are two places where vents are placed:

  1. Front
  2. Center

In traditional ovens the vent is in the front, while in central designs the vent is in the centre of the dome and connects to the chimney to let the heat out. The center vent has the benefit of moving the hot air over the top of the oven and may help improve even heat disbursement. There is another design called "vent in the oven" where the vent is placed inside the oven behind rather than in front of the door.

[edit] Flue

The flue is the opening that allows the heat or gas to pass through the chimney. This opening should be placed at the front of the oven in front of the door. The flue will function to draw smoke and exhaust gasses up and away from the oven through the chimney. If not properly placed the oven might release more heat than necessary and this will affect the operation of the oven. The flue needs to be cleaned regularly or it might obstruct the passing of the heat through the oven. It is necessary to use fireproof mortar for jointing the flue liners and the voids between flue linings must be closed with insulating material.

[edit] Door

For cooking pizza a traditional wood fired oven does not require a door. A door may be installed to help reduce the time taken for the oven to heat up, to increase the time the oven retains heat after building the fire and maintaining temperature consistency. The door will usually be made of either iron or a hardwood. Iron is a good choice as it will not be affected by the high heats. Safety should be considered however in that the iron door will become extremely hot and will cause severe burns if touched. A wood door has the benefit in that it will not cause such burns if it is maintained at a high temperature. The door will start to burn however if brought to a high enough temperature and so it is suggested that wooden doors be soaked in water for at least an hour before use. A wooden door with a metal covering on the inside is another option to gain the benefit of both materials. The height of the door should be determined by the height of the inner oven vault so as to improve airflow throughout. The ratio is Vault Height : Door Height = 100 : 60. eg. A vault height of 18" (46 cm) correlates to a door height of 11" (28 cm).

[edit] Heat expansion

When the oven heats up, the dome expands. The heat expansion can cause cracks in the dome of the oven. Heat-resistant insulation is applied on the dome which not only helps with the cracks but also makes sure the dome stays hot for a longer time by keeping the heat locked instead of letting it escape. Perlite or Vermiculite can be used for this purpose. You may add more coatings of heat-resistant insulation on top of your oven dome to increase the cooking times.

[edit] Thermal Insulation

How to Make Insulating Perlite Concrete for a Wood Oven

The dome of the oven needs thermal insulation which prevents the heat from escaping. If the oven does not have proper thermal insulation, the dome will release all the heat and you will not be able to cook. Our goal is to thermally insulate the dome to maximize the amount of time heat can be stored into it. There are different refractory insulation types that you can choose from.

  • Perlite or Vermiculite can be used for dry and loose form of heat insulation.
  • Ceramic Fiber Blankets can be used for insulation as well. While they are a bit costly, they provide excellent insulation and do not need any additional forms of heat insulation on top.
  • Perlite
  • Vermiculite
  • Ceramic Fiber Blanket

[edit] Cladding

Cladding is the final layer of the oven and may be either concrete or an additional layer of bricks. Some people prefer the aesthetics of a brick outer layer and so will utilise fire bricks for the internal dome, and then place a final cladding layer of regular building bricks over the top of insulation. Not only is it cheap and easy to afford but also increases the amount of time that your oven will stay hot consistently. Cladding proves to be an extra heat insulation for your oven and has many advantages including:

  • It serves as another layer of insulation and adds to the thermal mass.
  • You can cook items requiring less heat because the cladding stores the heat for a long time.
  • It slows down the temperature drop of the oven.
  • Aesthetically improves the appeal of the oven.

[edit] Drying

Building a pizza oven is a very time consuming task. In order to make a good pizza oven, it is recommended that you leave the oven to dry after constructing each layer.

For instance, once you have laid the bricks for the base, you have to let it dry because the next stages in the oven construction require a solid base. If any cracks appear after the base is dry then you can just patch it up with more mix.

[edit] First Firing of the Pizza Oven

Before firing the pizza oven for the first time you will want to ensure that all the materials have completely dried and that the concrete or mortar has cured. The longer concrete takes to dry the more strength and resilience it gathers, thus it may be beneficial to wrap the oven in builders plastic or damp cloth to extend the drying time. Any water that does exist in the oven when the first fire is created will turn to steam and try to escape. This is when cracks are most likely to appear. For this reason it is imperative that you wait until everything is dry and build the heat of the fire gradually. Similarly as with brick ovens, cog ovens will benefit by drying slowly. When clay dries quickly the potential for cracks to develop in the surface is increased.

When creating the first ever fire in the newly built oven, aim to keep the fire small and very gradually increase the heat. Do not use larger pieces of wood for this firing as you will create too much heat too fast. Your primary aim should be to slowly build the heat to ensure that the oven is fully dried and cured, and that the potential for issues arising from residual moisture is minimised. The initian fire should be built up over a 6 hour period for this reason. After allowing the heat to dissipate over night you should inspect the oven for signs of weakness or cracks and perform the necessary repairs. On subsequent firing you may use larger pieces of wood and bring the oven up to its full potential.

[edit] Cooking with a Pizza Oven

Cooking a pizza in a pizza oven is always a fun experience and results in a great tasting and absolutely delicious pizza. The oven is designed in such a way that the entire pizza enjoys heat evenly and is cooked at a very high temperature which is not achievable with conventional gas or electric ovens. This high temperature additionally adds to the dish flavour. For these reasons it is unsurprising that people in Italy where the pizza originated still prefer to cook pizzas in wood fired ovens.

[edit] Pizza Oven Check Lists

[edit] How to Build the Oven

  1. Identify a suitable location which is safe, aesthetically pleasing, and easily accessible.
  2. Build the oven foundation out of wood, brick, or stone.
  3. Create a level surface for the firebricks. Generally out of cement.
  4. Place fire bricks on a bed of sifted sand and fire clay. Ensure the hearth is level, the bricks are butted up against each other and that there is no mortar used..
  5. Create a temporary structural support foundation for the building of the oven walls. eg. Sand or wood.
  6. Lay fire bricks or cob to build the walls, door and chimney of the oven.
  7. Apply a covering of aluminium foil over the oven wall.
  8. Apply a think layer of insulation over the oven walls. eg. Vermiculite / perlite cement or fire blanket.
  9. Apply a final aesthetic layer over the oven walls. eg. Brick or cement cladding.
  10. Allow the building material to fully cure and dry. One week or more.
  11. Remove temporary structural support and fire the oven for the first time with a very small fire.
  12. Over time slowly increase the intensity of the fires until the oven is at operational temperatures.
  13. Cook a pizza in your new oven at temperatures of around 370°C (700°F).

[edit] How to Cure a Pizza Oven

  1. Before making a large fire in your pizza oven you will want to cure it first. This will ensure a longer shelf-life of the pizza oven.
  2. Use dry wood for easy burning. Denser or wet wood tends to smoke in large quantity.
  3. Make small fires inside the oven to cure the walls slowly. This should be done over a period of five days to reduce the likelihood of issues.

[edit] How to Prepare a Pizza Oven Fire

  1. Scrunch news paper into balls and place in the middle of the oven.
  2. Place small twigs and branches over the news paper.
  3. Light the news paper.
  4. Continue adding small branches to build the heat of the fire.
  5. Gradually increase the size of the wood pieces to the fire.
  6. Always use dry wood to make the fire in your oven. Initially the oven may smoke however this will diminish as the heat builds.
  7. Burn the fire within the oven until the desired temperature has been reached.
  8. Push the fire to the back of the oven out of the way.
  9. Brush the hearth to remove ash.
  10. Monitor the oven and the temperature. When cooking pizza the door is generally open and a fire maintained. For other foods the fire is smothered and the door closed with the hot embers.

[edit] How to Cook a Pizza in a Traditional Oven

  1. Build a fire within the oven and bring it to around 370°C (700°F).
  2. Prepare your pizza dough.
  3. Create you pizza dough with toppings. Generally Napoli sauce, basil, olives, pepperoni, mozzarella.
  4. Move the fire to the back of the oven and clean the hearth of ash.
  5. Close the oven door for 2 minutes to allow the temperature of the oven to stabilise and become evenly distributed.
  6. Sprinkle flour on your wood paddle / peel.
  7. Slide the pizza onto the peel and then slide the pizza off onto the hearth.
  8. Depending on the temperature of the oven the pizza will cook from 90 to 120 seconds.
  9. Watch the pizza to be sure it does not overly cook on one side. Rotate with the peel if necessary.
  10. Remove the pizza with the peel. Allow to cool slightly before consuming.

[edit] How to Minimise Minor Cracks

Sometimes minor cracks will be seen in the pizza oven walls. This is generally due as a result of severe heat and/or improper materials utilised. It will likely have happened during the normal heating and cooling process of the pizza oven. This is a very normal issue during the lifespan of a pizza oven and will generally not be a cause for concern. To minimise the cracks aim to ensure that the oven walls are completely dry before firing the oven.

[edit] General Tips

  • It may be better to use lighter colored wood to improve fire quality and food flavors.
  • Dense wood may make smoke and may potentially add a smoky flavor to the pizza.
  • Ideally the thickness of the dome insulation will be maximised so as to reduce the time required to heat the oven, increase the maximum temperature, and prolong the duration the oven stays hot.
  • Make the fire in the middle of pizza oven when beginning. Once the temperature has reached the desired heat move the fire to the side or back.

[edit] Maintenance

Cleaning a Wood-Fired Oven

Usually the only maintenance that an oven needs is regular cleaning. Once the oven is cold, you can use a rake to sweep the ash that has gathered to the center or the sides, and carefully sweep it out of the oven. The chimney of the oven also needs to be cleaned regularly and you might need to check for nests or other items stuck in it that may be hindering the passage of the heat through it. To keep your oven functioning properly, just clean it regularly and make sure the vents are clean with nothing stuck inside.

[edit] Common Problems

A number of common issues exist regarding pizza ovens in respect to their construction and usage. Issues which should be considered include:

  • Maintaining the correct temperature.
  • Preventing and fixing cracks.
  • Protection from the elements and water.
  • Ensuring crispy pizza crust.
  • Preventing hard pizza crust.
  • Preventing overly smokey flavor.
  • Preventing soggy pizzas.

[edit] Hidden problems with pizza oven

[edit] Termite treatment with chemicals for foundation

Termite is one of the insects available in soil. It remains hidden in soil but will cause great problem to your pizza oven after some moths. Termite leads breakage or sudden fracture of pizza oven. Before starting construction work of pizza oven, everyone should treat foundation soil with chemicals. To kill termites found in foundation you have to use chemicals before starting your construction for pizza oven. At first, you have to make some holes (12-20 mm diameter) close to the foundation wall. After that you have to inject chemical emulsion to kill termites. By this way, you can control or kill termites in foundation soil during pizza oven construction.

[edit] Termite and under floor soil treatment

Crack is one of the major problems with construction work. Cracking may be result of expansion of construction joint or because of poor constructing materials. If there is any crack at the joining point of oven floor and dome wall, it may allow termites to enter in the soil. Termites may loose soil under floor, which may lead sudden breakage of whole pizza oven. It is one of the hidden problems for any construction especially for pizza oven. If there is crack in your pizza oven, you should use chemicals or poison to kill termites. To apply poison or chemical to underneath floor soil, you have to make some holes with a diameter of 12 – 15 mm through the cracks up to the soil. Then you have to inject poison or chemical through the holes. You have to make soil saturated with chemicals or poisons. Maximum using limit of chemicals is 1L per hole. Lots of chemicals used to kill termites are available in market. You can purchase any one by consulting with expert. After injecting chemicals you have to seal the holes with proper cementing materials.

[edit] Health and Safety

For your own health and safety, and that of others, do not use any asbestos containing material in your oven as it has been proved to cause lung cancer.

[edit] Vermiculite

Only use the new vermiculite products. Do not go for the old ones as the new ones are clean and do not contain any hazardous material but the old ones might. Make sure that the vermiculite you use is not contaminated with asbestos.

[edit] Fire

Always be cautious around fire and have a fire extinguisher around in case there is an emergency. Pizza ovens may become extremely hot (370 degrees Celsius) and thus will burn instantly. Be aware of the danger to pets, children, and the intoxicated. Rinse burns under cold running water for at least 15 minutes before seeking medical treatment.

[edit] Using the Oven

Do not use bare hand while the oven is warm. The extreme oven temperatures are likely to cause third degree burns on contact with human skin. Use long oven mits which will protect the hands and arms while handling pots or working with the oven fire. Don't use liquid fuel such as petrol or lighter fluid to start a fire in the oven. The process may be dangerous and may lead to obnoxious flavours being absorbed into the surrounding brick. Don't use water to extinguish the fire. Water will have an adverse affect on the oven and may cause structural issues. Instead allow the oven to cool naturally. Use a metal shovel and bin if the remaining ashes are to be removed. It is important to ensure that the ashes have cooled entirely before disposing of them. Do not smother hot ashes with dirt or sand while disposing. The ashes may remain hot under the surface and will create a safety hazard if an individual were to unknowingly step on them.

[edit] Sourcing Materials

Sourcing materials for building a pizza oven can be difficult due to the types of materials and techniques involved. If you have a free and easily accessible supply of clean clay then a cob oven might be the most practical approach. If a brick oven is desired then the key materials will include brick, insulation and cement.

Cob oven materials
Foundation (eg. Brick, clay, wood (eg. Railway sleepers))
Sand to place the hearth and build the oven dome on
Fire bricks for the hearth
Clay
Hay
Brick oven materials
Foundation (eg. Brick, clay, wood (eg. Railway sleepers))
Concrete to place the hearth on
Sand to place the hearth and build the oven dome on
Fire bricks for the hearth
Builders bricks for the dome
Builders mortar
Fire blanket, insulating fire brick or vermiculite for the insulation layer
Mortar for the cladding

[edit] Videos

[edit] Brick Pizza Ovens

Pompeii Italian Brick Pizza Oven Construction
Secretos de la construcción de Hornos de Leña
Horno de Barro - ladrillo construccion
Building a wood-fired pizza Oven
How to build a pizza oven
Pizzaofen
Pizza oven James Mays Man Lab
How to build a pizza oven
How to Build a Wood Fired Pizza Oven Base
costruire un forno a legna artigianale

[edit] Clay / Cob / Earth / Horno Oven

How to make a cob oven or clay oven
How to build a clay oven
SolWest Cob Oven
How to Build a Cob Oven
Clay Cob Oven Video
Building a Cob Oven
How to Build an Earthen Oven
Cob Oven Building
How to build a cob oven

[edit] Pizza Oven Cooking Videos

Cob Pizza Oven
Ciabatta in a Wood Oven
Pizza in the Wood Oven
Baking in the Wood Oven
Pizza is a brick oven
Jamie Oliver pizza in a wood fired oven

[edit] See Also

[edit] External Links